Saturday, July 7, 2012

You Can Never Take Nolan's Superboy with Balloons Tattoo Away From Me

I had a pretty good couple of weeks.  While I feel badly that Jamie is currently suffering from allergies, I wrapped up my week by visiting the newly relaunched Austin Books Sidekick Store and then having a burger and beers with recent Houston-to-Austin transplant and high school pal Marshall, and, of course, Paul.  Turns out Marshall took a position at the place Paul already worked, so we're all chumming around.

I really dig the cast of characters at Austin Books and Comics, but I honestly can't remember the last time I saw Nolan around.  He's a swell fellow, and we share a mutual admiration for Superman, Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane back issues.

But Nolan has taken it up a notch.  Maybe all the way to 11.

I saw a couple of Super-feet poking out from beneath his sleeve and asked to his his ink.

He produced this:

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Dark Knight Rises Can't get Here Soon Enough

It's no secret that I'm totally in the bag for Chris Nolan's take on Batman.  I believe he's a strong storyteller in his way, smart behind the lens, able to create great tension from both an action perspective and a character perspective.  And I like that he's pushed audiences using something like Batman that we've seen handled an infinite number of ways with various degrees of success.

Signal Watch Watches: The Amazing Spider-Man

I think it may have been Tom Spurgeon who commented that, to him, Spider-Man was this thing that occurred between 1962-1972 or so.  And if you've ever read early Spider-Man, it's not hard to see why that might be.  So much of what came afterward has been either retread or adding unnecessary baggage to the Peter Parker formula that seeing the story about the kid who puts on tights to fight crime and super-villains got lost somewhere with alien symbiote suits, clones, clones of clones, clones in symbiote suits, etc...

I've read probably the first 100 issues of Spider-Man in Marvel's phenomenal Essentials collections (and that artwork sings in black and white.  Trust me.).  I can't exactly remember when I first came to Spider-Man, because he was on The Electric Company, starred in TV movies, was in the paper, and was on Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends.  I don't remember either the first Spidey comic I read, nor the last.  I do remember reading the wedding issue when it hit the newstand (it was such a big deal, guys).  But reading Kraven's Last Hunt totally wigged me out and made a bit of a Spider-Fan of me.*

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July from Cap and The Signal Watch!

What better superhero way to celebrate America than with the Sentinel of Liberty, Captain America!

You guys know I'm in the bag for Marvel's answer to jingoistic, flag waving super-dudes.  If you haven't been reading Ed Brubaker's work the past few years, you've really been missing out.

Of course, thanks to this summer's The Avengers, many of you now know Cap as a movie character, and that's terrific!  He may not be the definitive movie Cap, but he's not bad, when you consider the company he's kept in previous attempts to put Cap on screen.

Point of Fact:  When people ask me which is my favorite Avengers movie, I cannot help but answer: Captain America. Where was the musical scene in The Incredible Hulk or Thor? Nowhere.

And, of course, there's the 1990's version of Cap...

But you're really missing out if you've not seen the 1970's version.

Or, if you prefer a 1940's matinee serial:

So Happy Birthday, America, from me and Captain America!  Here's to a pretty darn good run at Democracy!

Yes, that is Kirby!  He even provided Kirby Dots for what I assume was a Bi-Centennial issue of Cap.
and special Disney bonus round:

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

For some reason we watched "Something Wild" (1986) and ponder a bit on "Manic Pixie Girls"

I dunno.  The other night it came on HBO and I was messing with uploading photos, etc...  And I did say "every movie in 2012".

The movie is probably most remarkable for the 1980's-ness of the idea and overall feel.

Of the sub-genre of movies now referred to as "The Manic Pixie Dreamgirl" movie, Something Wild (1986) follows the adventures that follow when a straightlaced stocks and bonds man (Jeff Daniels) gets hi-jacked by Melanie Griffith channeling Louise Brooks for 1/3rd of the movie (the character goes by "Lulu", among other names).  I've never really understood the appeal of Melanie Griffiths, and I'm not sure this movie did much to change that perception.  She's not a bad actress, but she seemed much more important in the 1980's than necessary, and while she's fine in the movie...

The idea behind the Manic Pixie Girl movies is that the right girl will find your poor, lost soul and save you from the comfort zone that you've spent decades building but which now, clearly, doesn't work anymore.  She's often an iconoclast, seemingly invulnerable and always sexually charged.  Sometimes the movies can be a bit creepy, if the Manic Pixie Girl is significantly younger than our hero, or even underage.

I'm not going to say the right girl can't shake things up for a guy in real life, but there's something odd about way these movies work that always feels a bit strained.

There's a certain weird high-school or undergrad take on women, a possessive object-oriented approach to character that I think calls back to how far away girls seem in younger days when you have absolutely no idea how to communicate with the object of your desire, especially someone who seems perfectly happy without you (ie: has no idea you exist).  And I guess I get it, I just sort of see characters skewing towards the one in this movie as "unstable, crazy people who you can enjoy in your personal life, but you have to know might explode at any minute".  But the idea vs. the reality of a person is, maybe, one of the best realizations is a worthy topic for movie making, I think.

Curiously, movies deal with this stock character differently.  Some stay manic pixie girls and dance out of frame mostly untouched by the lead character by movie's end, and in other cases they're Melanie Griffiths here, where their "growth" means abandoning the MPDG character and becomes...  sort of boring by films end.

But I mentioned the 80's-ness.

The movie begins in New York, I believe.   With a blond-haired stock broker on the make.  The soundtrack, including Paul Simon-friendly World Beat tunes and touching lightly on primordial but suburban friendly hip-hop.  Griffiths' lack of self-consciousness at wearing a huge Africa medallion for a chunk of the movie (we were still working some stuff out in 1986).  The utter mistrust and difference between city and country.  The movie devolves into this weird thing where Daniels and Griffiths have to fight a young and scrappy looking Ray Liotta to the death.  It was like the movie forgot what it was about somewhere at the hour mark or a near two-hour film.

There's a subplot about going to see Lulu's mom that doesn't really go anywhere except to set some baselines for who Lulu is that seem like they could have been better handled.  I dunno.

The movie was directed by the very talented Jonathan Demme,  The cast is fine, but the material feels oddly dated.  I dunno.

This is probably enough talk about a movie I was barely watching.

Signal Watch Reads: Edison Rex (from MonkeyBrain Comics)

The first batch of MonkeyBrain Comics is now available for about $6 for 5 comics.  I don't think I've seen that kind of value since I was in high school*, so I want to get that out of the way first and foremost.  Secondly, all of the books are worth at least checking out.  They all hit different beats and will find their specific readerships.  Of the five, three really hit a chord with me, but at that price, I'll still follow all five for a while because, seriously... a dollar.  That's gum money.

I'll probably talk about Aesop's Ark and Bandette later, but I thought that first I should cover the book by MonkeyBrain co-founder, Chris Roberson.

Roberson and artist Dennis Culver paired to bring to life Edison Rex, a sort of Silver Age Superman and Lex Luthor homage that takes a decidedly interesting turn in the first issue, setting up the nemesis of Earth's greatest hero as the protagonist of the book, but not in the way you might expect.

The book is pure gold for both Superman fans and fans of the broad concept of Silver Age superheroics, lantern jawed do-gooders and single-minded mad scientists intent on ruling the world.  It's not that other comics haven't explored some of this territory, be it Waid's Empire** or, now that I think on it, Waid's Incorruptible.  Roberson, however, takes a lighter touch, providing me with my favorite comics quote of the month:
Lord Edison!  Are you certain we should not be conquering, instead?
People, that's just good comics.

The tone is almost Atomic Robo in flavor, and that works well for me in my jaded old age of wanting to have fun reading my funny books, especially those about science villains with plans for world domination.  I've no doubt that by issue 2 or 3, the riff on Superman will be in the past and we'll be moving on to new pastures, but the twist in this makes the homage totally worth it.

The art style feels appropriate in a cartoony, animation-ready style, that totally fits modern sensibilities and is broad enough to handle what I think will be a world with giant robots, laser pistols and the occasional caped superhero.  Well done.

The comics weren't supposed to be out as early as they were released.  But released they are! I suppose with Comixology seeing MonkeyBrain Comics trending practically worldwide on Twitter, the idea of striking while the iron was hot meant that they did not want to make anybody wait any longer.  You can jump online and check out the full line at Comixology!

It's a dollar, for goodness sake.  Give it a shot.

*and given inflation, maybe not since Middle School when I could slip a copy of Batman on the conveyor belt with the family groceries and my mom didn't blink at the cover price.

**Man, now that was a hell of a comic.  Why don't I own that in trade?  That's just crazy.  A beautifully drawn, craftily written volume.

Alan Poindexter Merges with the Infinite

Astronaut Captain Alan Poindexter has died in a water craft accident.

There is an article on his death here.

Poindexter served with NASA for over a decade and served as Pilot for Shuttle Atlantis and Commander for Shuttle Discovery.

Andy Griffith Merges with The Infinite

The Signal Watch bids farewell and Godspeed to entertainer and personality Andy Griffith.  He passed today at the age of 86.

Ann Miller Sez: Let's Get Patriotic on This 4th of July!

Happy Fourth of July, Comrades!

Today we celebrate our independence with acts of patriotism, be it lighting off fire crackers, grilling foodstuffs, singing some nationalistic tunes, going to an outdoor concert sponsored by the city, or heading to the beach. And, of course, FIREWORKS.

So long as we're saluting America this week, I'd like to take a minute to salute American Ann Miller, the woman of 10,000 taps. Ann Miller loved four things: tapping, singing, smiling and AMERICA.  And probably saying things like "Tinsel Town" and "That's showbiz, kid!".

I invite you to view the photos, most certainly, but also to watch the two clips below, both pretty great war-time patriotic numbers and feature Miller's amazing footwork and, uh, the things between her feet and hips.

If I thought this was what it looked like to have a factory, I'd be a titan of heavy industry and manufacturing:

So as we brace ourselves for Independence Day, let's hope we can all get as excited about America as the lovely Ms. Ann Miller, who was never afraid to be show some leg for Mom, Baseball and Apple Pie.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Oh, for Pete's sake, DC. Just let Rob Pratt make Superman cartoons for you.

You'll remember Rob Pratt from his prior Superman Classic cartoon.

These things totally get everything great about pre-Crisis Superman. Especially the circa 1941 years. Just great Lois and Clark chemistry.

Special thanks to SimonUK for showing me the latest video. We've been emailing back and forth today in a sort of geek fest on the topic.